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 (Manna 84: TJC at 100 – The Grace That Has Brought Us Here)
In Retrospection and Reflection: One Hundred Years of Spiritual Grace
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Shun Dao Hsieh—Taichung, Taiwan

Editors note: Elder Shun Dao Hsieh was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ on July 5, 1947 in Huwei, Taiwan, and he later joined the full-time ministry in September 1955. After seventy years in the Lord, Elder Hsieh has seen and heard many miracles. This article is an excerpt of his reflections on the early days of the True Jesus Church in Taiwan, which he shared at the Holy Work Symposium, held in Malaysia in March 2016 by the International Assembly of the True Jesus Church.

The Gospel Reaches Taiwan

The True Jesus Church was established in Beijing on January 2, 1918 (the twentieth day of the eleventh month, 1917, according to the lunar calendar). The gospel, as preached by the True Jesus Church, reached Taiwan in 1926 when Elisha Huang invited Barnabas Chang to share the truth. Eight early workers came from China, boarding the Japanese ferry at Xiamen on March 2, and arriving at Keelung Harbor the next day. Among these workers were Thomas Guo, Luke Kao, Yuan Chien Chen, Dao Yuan Wu, Ching Lung Wang, and Shing Ming Huang.

Through the efforts of these pioneer workers, God established the first True Jesus Church in Taiwan, at Shengang, on March 11. Shortly after, the church in Niu Tiao Wan was established on March 16, followed by the church in Qingshui on April 3. Within a month, three churches had sprung upa great miracle in the history of Christianity in Taiwan.

This pioneering mission was effective because Gods grace and guidance were upon His workers, testifying that the truth they preached was the gospel of salvation (Eph 1:13; Mk 16:20; Heb 2:4).

In addition, Gods hand was very evident at the newly established church in Shengang. Week in and week out, many who attended the church services experienced miracles from God; and once they understood the truth, they received baptism. The church atmosphere was joyousbelievers testified of Gods grace, discussed the truth of God, sang hymns, prayed earnestly, and praised the Lord. Most were reluctant to leave the church hall after services were over.

As the True Jesus Church turns one hundred, we should ask ourselves if the zeal and joy that epitomized the church in her infancy still drives the centenarian church today. Do we have the same simple heart of faith and obedience as the early workers, who relied fully on the Holy Spirit to complete the work? Let us reflect on these questions as we recount the early days of the church in Taiwan.

Offerings of Early Workers

Today, when we consider serving the Lord, we often limit the scope of our offering to a portion of time and effort we can spare to do Gods work. But the early workers did not delineate their offerings in such a way. They served God through their careers, by offering their hard-earned cash to build churches, and even financed missionary work out of their own pockets. Some noteworthy examples are shared below, so that we may understand how these early brethren loved God and repaid Him through diverse forms of service.

1.       First seeds in Taiwan: Elisha Huang financed Barnabas Changs first missionary trip to Taiwan. He also funded the building of a church in Xianxi so the believers, who were mostly poor and few in number at the time, could gather in one place.

From this one seed, the church in Xianxi grew and prospered, such that the congregation would go on to build another church in Shengang in 1960. The original Xianxi Church is now known as Shengang Church.

2.       An entrepreneur who loved God: Elder Shun Ming Kuo was a prominent entrepreneur in Taichung. When he was a deacon, he was also an industrious businessman, but he never missed Sabbath services, morning prayers and evening services. He would always contribute money to the Taiwan General Assembly (GA) and local churches when there was a need. He also sponsored students to further their education, without expecting repayment. He would say, When youre successful, help those who need it. That is the best way to repay me.

3.       Serving God through business: Elder Yu Lin Tsai from the church in Nanmen, Tainan, was a businessman who decided to take up full-time ministry after World War II. However, he soon found that his gifts were suited more to business than to ministry, and he was advised to serve God through his business. He redirected his footsteps and returned to the world of business, but with the focus of serving God. Gods grace was upon him, and his enterprise was successful. And in turn, he built a church building at Nanmen, and constructed the first True Jesus Church nursing home for the elderly members.

These are just a few examples of the faith of the early True Jesus Church believers, but they are representative of the simple and generous spirit that characterized the church at the time. Just like the apostolic church, who willingly shared their possessions and money and provided for the needy among them (Acts 4:32V35; 11:29), many early True Jesus Church believers shared their blessings from God to benefit the church.

As the Bible says, Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:10). When we help others, by financial means or otherwise, we should not expect repayment of any kind. If we are in the position to give, then we should give freely, in the hope that our beneficiary will help others in turn. Whether or not our recipients are of the faith, we should expect nothing in return. If we can stir up this type of selflessness in the church, then we will truly be manifesting the great love of Christ.

The apostle Paul continued to work to support himself and the church (Acts 18:3; 2 Thess 3:8), but he did so alongside preaching the gospel. We should work hard in our vocation, but only with the view of shining Gods light through our work, and providing for ourselves and the wider church. We should never let our jobs become an excuse for neglecting our faith and service to God. The early True Jesus Church brethren knew that successful careers were from God, and for that reason, they never put their jobs before the work of God. They endeavored to tithe on time, refrained from working on Sabbath days, and brought their families to service. And they would also repay Gods grace by offering their time and money freely.

Throughout the history of the True Jesus Church, new believers would come to Christ with this same heart. But as the years pass, maintaining this heart of simplicity can become difficult. And for those second- and third-generation believers who were born into the church, who have never had to seek God for themselves, it is easy to take things for granted. How willing are we to sacrifice time and money to spread the precious truth? How many of us would offer out of our own abundance to help our less well-off brothers and sisters establish themselves in the faith? Are we willing to count all things lossXlet go of all our worldly achievements, possessions and statusXin order to gain Christ (Phil 3:7V9)? These are questions worthy of our consideration.

Simple Faith of the Early Brethren

Some members wonder why we hear so many testimonies of Gods miraculous grace from past decades, but we witness few miracles in the church today. My answer is that, before Taiwan implemented national health insurance, most people could not afford to see a doctor or receive medical treatment. When believers became ill, they would have to rely on the free Physicianthe Lord Jesus. When they prayed, the Lord had mercy on them, and miracles would happen. Now that we have easy and affordable access to doctors and medicine, they are our first port of call when we fall sick.

Miracles of healing are just one manifestation of a simple faith, uncomplicated by alternative solutions and possibilities. In our modern world of scientific enquiry and technological advancement, it can be tough to humbly rely on God alone, against all logic, and believe that He will mercifully meet our needs. But this is exactly what the early brethren did, and for that reason, they witnessed the amazing works of God. Here are just three examples from those early years where the lives of our brethren were transformed through a simple and steady faith.

Testimony 1: In 1950, I was pastoring the church in Lunwei as a newly ordained minister. After the Sabbath service, a sister asked me what had happened to my thumb. I answered her, I injured it when I was cutting wood.

She smiled and said, Thank the Lord. Incidentally, this sister was nicknamed Thank-the-Lord.

I muttered to the youths beside me, How could she thank the Lord for my injury?

A brother replied, She was right to thank the Lord.

I was puzzled. Why is that?

He replied, The Lord prevented you from cutting off your thumb completely.

And what if I had cut off my thumb?

Then we would thank God that you still had four fingers!

The Bible says, Rejoice alwaysKin everything give thanks (1 Thess 5:16, 18a). Those who have a simple faith will always look on the bright side of every situation.

There is a story about how Sister Thank-the-Lord got her nickname. Before she believed in Jesus, she had a strange illness. She was afraid of the light, and the wind would cause a painful sensation on her skin. She would sit under a mosquito net all day long, even when she ate her meals.

A senior sister from the church in Lunwei came to preach to her one Sabbath, saying, If you go to church with me, the Lord Jesus will heal you! Thank-the-Lord believed and agreed to go. When she put a covering over her head, the senior sister said, You dont look nice with that on, and told her to take it off.

Miraculously, for the rest of the day, she did not feel any pain or ill-effects from the wind. When she returned home, she no longer felt pain or needed her mosquito net. After that, she persistently sought the truth and was baptized in the name of Jesus. Having received this amazing grace from God, she would always thank the Lord in all things, which is how she got her nickname.

Testimony 2: On August 15, 1945, the Emperor of Japan surrendered to the United States of America, marking the end of World War II.

In 1946, the church in Nanao in Yilan County was under great persecution. A certain church was spreading rumors that the True Jesus Church was a cult and should be exterminated. Later, in 1955, Preacher Kai Chou Hung testified what the church in Nanao underwent at the time.

Preacher Hung said, We were targeted two times a week, often in the middle of a sermon. When the persecutors came, they would ring a bell so that the brothers and sisters would know they were coming. Nevertheless, no one would leave his or her seat. Our attackers were strong men, and they would call out, Do you want to believe in Jesus?

Our brethren would answer, Yes!

Then they would shout, Do you want to believe in our church, or True Jesus Church?

The brethren would reply, True Jesus Church!

The attackers would push the members to the ground, grab them by the hair or ear, and hit them on the head. They would beat them with a stick and step on them until they passed out. They also targeted Preacher Hung, as the churchs minister, brutally beating him until he threw up blood and passed out. Despite this, Preacher Hung continued to minister every day. Such persecutions also did not deter the faith of the Nanao believers.

Around that time, some truth-seekers from Nanao decided to get baptized at the Luodong evangelistic and spiritual convocation. The minister asked them why they would want to receive baptism when they would be persecuted at Nanao. They answered, If we receive baptism and are then beaten to death, we will be saved. But if we are beaten to death, having not been baptized, we wont be saved. The church council unanimously agreed to baptize them for three reasons: they believed in the gospel that saves; they were not afraid of persecution after knowing the truth; and their faith was firm. After the convocation, they joyfully returned to Nanao, ready to face any persecution that might come.

One Sabbath, an angel appeared to the brethren during a service at Nanao, and told them, Violent attackers will come to persecute you today. I will lead all of you to another place. Do not return home to pack, just bring your Bible and hymnbook. Come, follow me.

The angel brought them to a broken hanging bridge that had been marked as unsafe and off-limits. He spoke to those behind him, Pay attention to where I put my feet; if you step where I do, youll be safe. Not long after, their pursuers came after them. But they were afraid to cross the rickety bridge. God opened a way for the believers, just as He did for the Israelites fleeing the Egyptian soldiers (Ex 14:21V28).

After they had crossed the bridge, the angel disappeared. The members who escaped that day belonged to the indigenous Atayal tribe. They followed the mountain road and arrived at Fushi Church in the Hsiulin Township, Hualian County. The members of this church were of the Truku tribe, who spoke a different language from the Atayal. Fortunately, both tribes were educated under the Japanese system, so they could communicate in Japanese. After learning the plight of the Nanao brethren, the Fushi brethren were full of love and lent the visitors some land to work and live on.

After a few years, the local government sent officials to the Nanao Township to declare that, because the True Jesus Church is a legally registered religious organization, any discrimination against the church would be against the law. The brethren who had hidden in Fushi could now return to Nanao peacefully.

Aside from the church in Nanao, there are now seven more churches in that area. I believe this persecution was a catalyst in the growth of the church. Hallelujah, thank the Lord!

Testimony 3: In October 1955, during the practical portion of my theological training program (TTP), I was delivering a Sabbath sermon at the church in Luodong. It was entitled, The Love of the Lord Jesus. After the sermon, Deaconess Maria Chiu came up to me, held my hands and broke down in tears. I didnt know the Lord Jesus loves me so much! she said.

Later, I learned that, before Deaconess Chius husband died, he objected to her going to church. Every Sabbath, she would sneak out early in the morning by the back door. On her return, before she walked through the front door, she would prepare herself to be beaten. Her journey to and from church was also perilousshe had to crawl slowly across a wobbly bridge over a deep valley. Though she faced such difficulties to come to church every Sabbath, she never grumbled against the Lord. In fact, she was always smiling and full of joy.

Testimony 4: On March 2, 1962, the Taiwan GA sent me to the churches in Chiayi and Neipu. On Monday, March 5, a Neipu church board member informed me of an elderly lady who had been diagnosed with end-stage tuberculosis. The doctor had told her not to buy any more medicine, but to buy her favourite foods. Because her doctor could offer her no more hope, she turned to her neighbor, a sister from the church in Neipu, for help. She wanted to believe in Jesus and to come to church.

The church board member invited me and few members to the ladys house so we could pray for her. I took the opportunity to explain some basic biblical truth to her, and asked, Can you throw away your medication so we can pray for you? At first, she was unwilling because she could not afford to replace the medicine. I clarified, I dont mean that you cant take medication after believing in Jesus. But I want you to experience the power of God. If you keep taking medicine while praying to God at the same time, and you recover, then you might think it was the medicine that healed you.

She understood and threw away the medicine. After we had prayed for her, I invited her to attend church service. She said, Ive been in this bed for four monthshow can I possibly go to church?

I replied, If you decide to stay in bed, then youll never leave it. But if youre willing to come, then God will give you strength.

She immediately responded, I will come!

That night, she brought along a warmer, and required the help of two sisters to walk to church. Over the course of four days attending church, with the prayers of the brethren aiding her, she gradually needed less and less support, until finally the day came when she needed neither her walking stick nor her warmer.

On the morning of the fifth day, she felt well enough to wash her clothes in the riversomething she had not done for the last four or five months. Her neighbors saw her at the river and testified to others, The Lord Jesus has saved herXshe no longer has tuberculosis. This news brought a few more truth-seekers to the church, including the ladys husband, who also received the Holy Spirit.

On the Sabbath of May 19, after the end of the Neipu evangelistic and spiritual convocation, six people, including this lady and her husband, were baptized. After this, even more people came to the church to seek the truth. In the month of June, we held two more baptism sessions for eleven people in totala wonderful outcome sparked by the faith of one lady.

In 2013, I attended this sisters funeral. Even though she was given a terminal prognosis at the age of fifty-two, she went on to live to the age of 103. Her faith has been passed down to the fifth generation: her great great grandchildren are in the Lord.

In Retrospection

Today, many of us live in relative comfortXwe do not face persecution for our beliefs, and we have access to doctors and medicine when we are ill. However, there are True Jesus Church members in certain parts of the world who are not so well placed. We find that these brethren, like the early workers in Taiwan, cherish their faith so much more and rely on God more fervently than those of us living in liberal and economically stable countries. It is in these countries that we still see the great power of God manifested in many miracles and wonders.

A Taiwanese brother once shared this observation with me: The early believers in Taiwan had the heart of a childsimple and innocent. They were like a family who spoke openly to one another. If anyone behaved inappropriately, they would gently correct this person face to face. And they rejoiced in the Lord, always. Nowadays, the brethren are like adultswell educated and knowledgeable. They are almost like strangers to one another, speaking very selective words. In the face of inappropriate behavior, no one would be assertive enough to point it out. Attending church to worship God is like another taskwe come to just learn about the Bible. The family-like connection between members has weakened, and so has our thirst for the word of God and joy in the Lord.

As the True Jesus Church reaches her one hundredth year, we should ask ourselves if this brothers assessment is correct. Let us aspire to attain the simple and steadfast faith that our forebears had, and cultivate a child-like heart. Because the early believers had abundant faith, Jesus would heal them. They suffered for the sake of Christ and did everything with thanksgiving and joy in the Lord; in return, they witnessed the wonderful grace and power of the Lord. If we regain this innocent and trusting heart of a child, then we, too, will see the hand of our loving heavenly Father working in our lives and in His church.

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Author: Shun Dao Hsieh
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 12/08/2017